Women's role in shaping relationships


December 13, 1992|By SUSAN DEITZ

Q: Your statement that "it is women who define a relationship, sets its limits and tone" chills the heart of women like me, who don't know how to do that.

I try to treat men as equals and so I inevitably get used or see them run off with someone who tells them what to do all the time (or both). The message I get from "more successful with men" women is that men need to be led around by their egos and . . . sexuality. While I see that it "works," I continue to consider it to be insulting to men to treat them that way. Am I just ignoring basic reality?

Apparently there is this "approach-avoidance" dance that one must do when one likes someone. But what I do is just let them know I like them . . . and that's the end of that! I don't know how to do that dance. If it's really necessary to dance that dance, I'll be alone till I die.

Susan, how can there be an "equal partnership" when one member is "defining the relationship . . . setting the tone"? I am mystified.

RF It seems a lot to ask of men (or anyone!) to be a "shining but emo

tionally armored . . . and nurturing knight." Whew! Well, I guess it's what we want of each other. But at 47, with my "treat them as equals" mind-set and its inevitable result, I'm depressed. Any advice from men would be appreciated.

A: Until the mail floods in from the men reading this, consider the reasoning behind my statement that it is the woman who defines a relationship. Generally, it is the female who sets sexual limits and the emotional tone. It is she who decides the dynamics, whether equal/mutual or lopsided/off-balance. Much of that

decision process is not discussed, but it usually falls to the women to set the emotional rules.

That is not at all mutually exclusive of equality/partnership, just a simple fact of life. Women who don't set those rules often get trampled on, as has been your experience. Because they misinterpret their own ability to define a relationship, it intimidates them and they err on the side of being too open and too vulnerable. And they can choose the wrong kind of man, too, one who abuses and misuses the love they present so willingly to him. (They don't usually wind up with a nurturer because they gravitate to the other breed as they surrender their power to them.)

Stay with me. The irony here is that equality and partnership are achieved by lovers only when each retains and expresses that power. Yes, it is a dance, this thing called love, but it is a thought-out rhythmic giving and taking between equal adults who do not exploit or underestimate the other.

There is a shining and emotionally armored knight out there for most women, provided they embrace their own effectiveness and give it voice.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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